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Research Folder - Archie Sinclair TBM

Research Folder - Archie Sinclair TBM

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ARCHIES

InCLAIR
RESEArc
HFOLERT
IMEBASE
DMeDIA.
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Books
Franz Kafka
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Jack Vernon ¯ ¯ ¯
David Shrigley
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Bret Easton Ellis-
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Herbert Marshall- ' '
Richard Taylor- ¯ ¯'' '
Peter Gidal-
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Michael O’Pray ' ¯
Marjane Satrapi
Marina lewycka- ' ' ¯'

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Mark Oliver Everett- ¯ ¯
Albert Camus-
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James Joyce- '' ' ''
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Jean Baudrillard ¯ ¯' '
Oliver Rowse-
Charles Bukowski- ' '
William Burroughs-

Film
Darren Aronofsky
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Wes Anderson
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Guillermo Del Toro-
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Pedro Almodovar-
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Alfonso Cuaron-
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The Coen Brothers-
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Godfrey Reggio-
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Peter Greenaway
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David Lynch-
The Short flms of David Lynch

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Jan Svankmajer-

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The Brothers Quay-
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Richard Linklater-
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Harmony Korine-

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Werner Herzog-
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Jim Jarmusch-
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Wim Wenders-
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David Cronenberg-

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Julian Schnabels
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The Diving Bell and the Butterfy
OTHER FILMS
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Websites
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www.e-fux.com
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www.noisefelds.com
www.fickr.com/photos/cosmococa/
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www.marksinfnitesolutions.com
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Exhibitions
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Beaconsfeld Gallery –
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London - Saigon - Dalat - My Tho - Long Xuyen - Phnom Penh
- Siem Reap - Sihanoukville - Kampong Cham - Krache - Ban
Lung - Stung Treng - Si Phan Don - Pakxe - Vientiane - Vang
Vieng - Luang Prabang - Luang Nam Tha - Hanoi - Hai Phong
- Hue - Hoi An - Nha Trang - London - New York - Baltimore -
Washington DC - London - Athens - Cairo - Basata - Aqa-
ba - Wadi Musa - Ma’an - Dana - Amman - Jarash - Iraqi
Border - Damascus - Beirut - Byblos - Tripoli - Becharre -
Sidon - Tyre - Aleppo - Antakya - Adana - Ankara - Istan-
bul - Sofa - Belgrade - Sarajevo - Split - Novaljia - Zadar
- Mostar - Zaostrog - London - Chasterix Sancy - London
New York
October - November 2008
Conrad Shawcross Exhibition -
“ Chord” (2009)
Kingsway Tram Station
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down there in recent years have been flm
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Albert Oehlen - DJ Techno (2001)
Albert Oehlen studied in Hamburg with
Sigmar Polke, played a central role in
a prodigious group of artists who came
to the fore in the ’80s, and was as-
sociated with various movements and
groups—some apt, some gratuitous. I
would describe him with that popular
health-food term free radical. Today, the
German-born Oehlen lives and works in
Berlin, Switzerland, and Spain. A retro-
spective of his work opened recently at
Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, and he
has a solo show running all this month at
Luhring Augustine in New York. I inter-
viewed him in New York when he came
for the opening of a show featuring the
work of his late friend Martin Kippenberg-
er at the Museum of Modern Art. During
the interview, we were joined by Oehlen’s
friend and mine, the painter Christopher
Wool.
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www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/peter_coffn.htm
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www.stefanbruggemann.com
Stefan Brü ggemann was born in Mexi-
co City in 1975 and has been exhibiting
both in Mexico and abroad since the
mid-1990s. He is part of a young group
of artists working in Mexico today that
has attracted much recent international
attention for their irreverent, radical, and
often collaborative approaches to art
production. He works with and through
established systems of institutional
critique and conceptual art, but alters
their canonical approaches to art pro-
duction to allow ambiguity, irony, and
play to enter the works. Brü ggemann
lives and works in Mexico City.
Reverie- Jemma Grundon
Solo Show
Vyner Street
Part of the Pop Life Exhibition
Tate Modern 2009
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www.christojeanneclaude.net/rf.shtml
www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLgNkvtovV4
http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/flms/947
www.gordoncheung.com
Gordon Cheung is of Hong Kong origin and born in London 1975 where he lives and works
Cheung’s multi-media art capture the hallucinations between the virtual and actual realities of a
globalised world oscillating between Utopia and Dystopia. Spray paint, oil, acrylic, pastels, stock
listings and ink collide in his works to form epic techno-sublime vistas.
Chien Andalou !
Pompidou centre Paris
London Premiere of Sarah Morris’ sixth flm “Robert Towne” a
portrait of the legendary writer, director,producer and actor of
the same name. The Film is part of an ongoing series includ-
ing a painted mural of intersecting lines and circles, also titled
‘Robert Towne”.
B
Soundtrap IV - John Wynne
Beaconsfeld gallery 2008
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outputting through more than 300 hi-f speak
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set by the acoustic interventions of a modifed
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TOM SACHS is a sculptor,
probably best known for his
elaborate recreations of various
Modern icons, all of them mas-
terpieces of engineering and
design of one kind or another.
In an early show he made Knoll
offce furniture out of phone
books and duct tape; later,
he recreated Le Corbusier’s
1952 Unité d’ Habitation using
only foamcore and a glue gun.
Other projects have included
his versions of various Cold War
masterpieces, like the Apollo
11 Lunar Excursion Module,
and the bridge of the battleship
USS Enterprise. And because
no engineering project is more
complex and pervasive than
the corporate ecosystem, he’s
done versions of those, too,
including a McDonald’s he built
using plywood, glue, assorted
kitchen appliances. He’s also
done Hello Kitty and her friends
in materials ranging from foam-
core to bronze.
A lot has been made of the
conceptual underpinnings of
these sculptures: how Sachs’
sampling capitalist culture,
remixing, dubbing and spitting
it back out again, so that the
results are transformed and
transforming. Equally, if not
more important, is his total em-
brace of “showing his work.” All
the steps that led up to the end
result are always on display.
On a practical level, this means
that all seams, joints, screws or
for that matter anything hold-
ing stuff together, like foamcore
and plywood, are left exposed.
Nothing is erased, sanded
away, or rendered invisible.
On a more philosophical level,
this means that nothing Sachs
makes is ever fnished. Like any
good engineering project, ev-
erything can always be stripped
down, stripped out, redesigned
and improved.
Ed Templeton etc www.toymachine.com (Part of alleged galleries)
ARTISTS
DON’T SOLVE
PROBLEMS
THEY INVENT
NEW ONES
BRUCE NAUMAN
We begin in ancient greece, with socrates announcing “I know that i know nothing”. Clearly confusion has
always been at the heart of wisdom. centuries latercomes a statement that many have attributed to charles
darwin: “A mathmatician is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there”. as a scien-
tist commited to cataloguing, explaining and drawing a clear picture of nature, Darwin mocked the mathmati-
cian’s inability to describe the physical world in anything but absract and speculative terms.
This new show at the ICA was originally organised byt he chief curator of the Contemporary Art Museum
St.Louis.
it gathers together artist such as Fischli & Weiss, Sarah Crowner, David William and Dave Hullfsh Bailey. to
great affect.
For the blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there
ICA January 2010
Inside the museum of his making, asking a
cat for it’s opinion on the merits of a paint-
ing is an entirely plausible exercise.
ART ISN” T
HERE TO
EXPLAIN
THINGS
Joseph Beuys
ARTISTS
DON’T SOLVE
PROBLEMS
THEY INVENT
NEW ONES
BRUCE NAUMAN
www.beirutartcenter.org/
Various Things from Egypt, Jordan and Syria
http://artcontext.org/act/08/election/index.php
www.location1.org/vrp/
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solid-state fat screen. In a backwards-
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geometric form and infnite function. Like
' ' ''
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traditional medium to contemporary culture. Judith Schaechter’s list of infuences are
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www.certainlynot.com
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What is it like to walk away from confict,
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never ending cycle of fright, fght, fight.
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form part of the energy feld that has
' ' ' ''
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be deactivated if the grip that has bound us for generations to armed confict is to be loosened fnally and
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what you’ve reconciled to let go of. And the fnal, slow acceptance that is no longer of service to you anyway.
“Remnants” is a refective process which offers participants a chance to engage with the emotional dynamics
that underlie decommissioning and a chance also to acknowledge the signifcance of the end of the armed
confict that took place on these isles.
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infnitely dry deserts.
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A giant screen shows a strange flm, which seems to be as much experimental cinema as science fction. Fragments
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L’Oeil Sauvage but also images from Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Could this possibly be the last flm?
' ' '' ' ' ' '' ' ''
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books, images, works of art and music produce a strange effect reminiscent of a Jean-Luc Godard flm, a culture of quotation in a context of catastro

In the shelter, the prone fgures are reminiscent of Henry Moore’s ‘shelter drawings’, while his sculpture for sheep stands next to a giant apple core by
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' ' '' ' ¯ '' ' ' ' ''
cinema, sleeping fgures and drops of rain.
Gilbert & George
Retrospective Exhibition
Brooklyn Museum
2008
Gilbert & George
Retrospective Exhibition
Tate Modern
2007
Gilbert & George
Retrospective Exhibition
Brooklyn Museum
2008
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the narrow confnes of the art world, adopting the slogan ‘Art
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dressed fgures are instantly recognisable to the general

These 2 exhibitions were almost identical in content it was all part of G&G’s travelling retrospective
that is slowly making its way through some of the worlds major cities. however the show in New York
was curated a hundred times better than the on at the Tate, walking round the Tate exhibition I felt
myself loosing concentration at being forced to look at the same paintings i’ d been familiar with for
several years, however on entering the show at the brooklyn museum i felt as though they had some
how injected a whole new life into the paintings and turned out to be one of the best shows i saw in
the States.
Agnes Pezeu
Gallery 9
New York
Sophie Calle postcards
from Zaha Hadid temporary building central park
NYC 2007
Literally the best peice of art ever made
Sarah Beddington
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or historical signifcance. The sense of duration in the works challenges the viewer to slow
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' ' ' ' '
if: people and places in recent flm and video
Since the 1990s many artists working in flm and video have explored portraiture through
' ' ' ¯ ' '' ' '
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of the form and a more truthful portrayal of the subject. ‘If: people and places in recent flm
and video’ brings together fve young UK-based flmmakers – Mark Boulos, Dwight Clarke,
' ¯ ¯ ' ' – ' ''
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web.mac.com/victor.rodriguez/VictorRodriguez/CrazyDiamond.html
' ' ’ ' '
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Bruce Nauman’s original flms of his
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Boris Groys
Religion in the Age of Digital Reproduction
The general consensus of the contemporary mass media is that the return of religion has emerged as the most impor-
tant factor in global politics and culture today. Now, those who currently refer to a revival of religion clearly do not
mean anything like the second coming of the Messiah or the appearance of new gods and prophets. What they are
referring to rather is that religious attitudes have moved from culturally marginal zones into the mainstream. If this
is the case, and statistics would seem to corroborate the claim, the question then arises as to what may have caused
religious attitudes to become mainstream.
The survival and dissemination of opinions on the global information market is regulated by a law formulated by
Charles Darwin, namely, the survival of the fttest. Those opinions that best adapt to the conditions under which they
are disseminated will, as a matter of course, have the best odds of becoming mainstream. Today’s opinions market,
however, is clearly characterized by reproduction, repetition, and tautology. The widespread understanding of con-
temporary civilization holds that, over the course of the modern age, theology has been replaced by philosophy, an
orientation toward the past by an orientation toward the future, traditional teachings by subjective evidence, fdelity to
origins by innovation, and so on. In fact, however, the modern age has not been the age in which the sacred has been
abolished but rather the age of its dissemination in profane space, its democratization, its globalization. Ritual, repeti-
tion, and reproduction were hitherto matters of religion; they were practiced in isolated, sacred places. In the modern
age, ritual, repetition, and reproduction have become the fate of the entire world, of the entire culture. Everything
reproduces itself—capital, commodities, technology, and art. Ultimately, even progress is reproductive; it consists in
a constantly repeated destruction of everything that cannot be reproduced quickly and effectively. Under such condi-
tions it should come as no surprise that religion—in all its various manifestations—has become increasingly successful.
Religion operates through media channels that are, from the outset, products of the extension and secularization of
traditional religious practices. Let us now turn to an investigation of some of the aspects of this extension and secular-
ization that seem especially relevant to the survival and success of religions in the contemporary world.
IRWIN, Corpse of Art, 2003–2004. Mixed media installation (wood, textile, wax, hair, vase, fowers).
Courtesy Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin / Ljubljana. Photo: Jesko Hirschfeld, 2007.
1. The Internet and the Freedom of Faith
The regime under which religion—any religion—functions in contemporary Western secular democratic societies is
freedom of faith. Freedom of faith means that all are free to believe what they choose to believe and that all are free to
organize their personal and private lives according to these beliefs. At the same time, however, this also means that the
imposition of one’s own faith on others in public life and state institutions, including atheism as a form of faith, cannot
be tolerated. The signifcance of the Enlightenment was not so much that it resulted in the complete disappearance
of religion, but that religion became a matter of private choice, which then resulted in the withdrawal of religion into
the private sphere. In the contemporary world, religion has become a matter of private taste, functioning in much the
same way as do art and design. Naturally, this is not to suggest that religion is precluded in public discussion. Howev-
er, the place of religion in relation to public discussion is reminiscent of the place of art as outlined by Immanuel Kant
in The Critique of Judgment: religion may be publicly discussed, but such a discussion cannot result in any conclusion
that would become obligatory, either for the participants of this discussion or for society as a whole. Commitment to
one religious faith or another is a matter of sovereign, private choice that cannot be dictated by any public author-
ity—including any democratically legitimized authority. Even more importantly, such a decision—as in the case of art—
need not be publicly argued and legitimized, but rather publicly accepted without further discussion. The legitimacy of
personal faith is based not on the degree of its power of persuasion, but on the sovereign right of the individual to be
committed to this faith.
In this respect, freedom of faith is fundamentally different from, let’s say, the kind of freedom represented in scientifc
research. In the context of a scientifc discussion every opinion can be argued for or against, but each opinion must
also be substantiated by certain facts and verifed according to fxed rules. Every participant in such a discussion is
undoubtedly free—at least theoretically—to formulate his or her position and to argue in its favor. However, one may
not insist on a scientifc opinion that is not subject to justifcation, and that would contravene all proof and evidence to
the contrary, without introducing any argument that would otherwise make one’s position plausible and persuasive to
others. Such unyielding resistance to the obvious, such blindness toward the facts, to logic and common sense, would
be regarded as bordering on the insane. If someone were to refer to his sovereign right to insist on a certain scientifc
opinion without being able to legitimize this insistence by rational argument, he or she would be excluded from the
scientifc community.
What this means is that our contemporary, Western notion of freedom is deeply ambiguous. In fact, discourse on
freedom always pivots on two radical types of freedom: an unconditional freedom of faith, that sovereign freedom per-
mitting us to make personal choices beyond all public explanation and justifcation, and the conditional, institutional
freedom of scientifc opinion, which depends on the subject’s ability to justify and legitimize this opinion in accordance
with pre-determined, publicly established rules. Thus, it is easy to show that our notion of democratic, free society is
also ambiguous. The contemporary notion of political freedom can be interpreted in part as sovereign, in part as insti-
tutional: in part as the sovereign freedom of political commitment, and in part as the institutional freedom of political
discussion. But whatever may be said about the contemporary global political feld in general, one thing remains cer-
tain: this feld is becoming increasingly infuenced, or even defned, by the Internet as the primary medium of global
communication. And the Internet favors private, unconditional, sovereign freedom over scientifc, conditional, institu-
tional freedom.
Rabih Mroué, On Three Posters. Refections on a Video Performance, 2006. Video (color, sound), 18 min.
Courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery. Photo: Lina Gheibeh.
In an earlier age of mass media—newspapers, radio or TV—the only possible assurance of freedom of opinion was an
institutionally guaranteed free access to this media. Any discussion revolving around freedom of opinion, therefore,
centered on the politics of representation, on the question as to who and what should be included, and who and what
should be excluded from standard news coverage and public political discussion. Today, all are free to create their own
Web sites without the need for discussion and legitimization. Freedom of opinion, as practiced on the Internet, func-
tions as the sovereign freedom of private commitment: neither as the institutional freedom of rational discussion, nor
as the politics of representation, inclusion and exclusion. What we experience today is the immense privatization of
public media space through the Internet: a private conversation between MySpace (www.myspace.com) and YouTube
(www.youtube.com) today substitutes for the public discussion of the previous age. The slogan of the previous age was,
The private is political, whereas the true slogan of the Internet is, The political is private.
Obviously, this new confguration of the media feld favors religion over science, and sovereign religious politics over
institutionalized secular politics. The Internet is the space in which it is possible for contemporary, aggressive religious
movements to install their propaganda material and to act globally—without recourse to any institution for representa-
tion, or application to any authority for their recognition. The Internet provides these movements with the means to
operate beyond any discursively obtained legitimacy and with full sovereignty. In this sense, the contemporary return
of religion can be seen as the return of sovereign freedom after many decades or even centuries of the dominance of
institutional freedom.
Accordingly, the surge in religion may also be directly connected to the growing, sovereign freedom of private con-
sumption and capital investment on a global scale. Both are dependent on the Internet and other digital communica-
tions media that transgress the borders of national democratic institutions. In any case, both practices—religious and
economic—presuppose the functioning of the media universe as an arena for private, sovereign acts and decisions.
There is, moreover, one further signifcant similarity between capital investment and religious commitment: both
operate through language, though, at the same time, beyond language—where language is understood as the means of
(self-)explanation, justifcation, and legitimization.
Paul Chan, 1st Light, 2005. Digital video projection (color, no sound), 14 min., loop.
Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York. Photo: Jean Vong.
2. Religious Ritual and Mechanical Reproduction
Religion is often understood to be a certain set of opinions, associated with whether contraception should be permitted
or whether women should wear headscarves. I would argue, however, that religion—any religion—is not a set of opin-
ions but primarily a set of rituals, and that the religious ritual refers to a state in which there is a lack of opinions, a
state of opinionlessness—a-doxa—for it refers to the will of the gods or of God ultimately concealed from the opinions
of mortals. Religious language is the language of repetition, not because its subjects insist on any specifc truth they
wish to repeatedly assert and communicate. Here, the language is embedded in ritual. And ritual is a re-enactment of
the revelation of a truth ultimately impossible to communicate. Repetition of a certain religious ritual celebrates the
encounter with such an incommunicable truth, the acceptance of this truth, being answerable to God’s love and main-
taining devotion to the mystery of revelation. Religious discourse praises God, and praises God in such a way as is sup-
posed to please God. Religious discourse operates not in the opposition between truth and error, as scientifc discourse
does, but in the opposition between devotion and blasphemy.
The ritual, as such, is neither true, nor false. In this sense it marks the zero point of freedom of opinion, that is, free-
dom from any kind of opinion, from the obligation to have an opinion. Religious ritual can be repeated, abandoned,
or modifed—but not legitimized, criticized, or refuted. Accordingly, the fundamentalist is a person who insists not
so much on a certain set of opinions as on certain rituals not being abandoned or modifed, and being faithfully and
correctly reproduced. The true fundamentalist does not care about fdelity to the truth, but about the correctness of
a ritual, not about the theoretical, or rather, theological interpretations of the faith, but about the material form of
religion.
Now, if we consider those religious movements especially active today we observe that they are predominantly fun-
damentalist movements. Traditionally, we tend to distinguish between two kinds of repetition: (1) repetition of the
spirit and in spirit, that is, repetition of the true, inner essence of a religious message, and (2) repetition of the external
form of a religious ritual. The opposition between these two types of repetition—between living spirit and dead let-
ter—informs all Western discourse on religion. The frst kind of repetition is almost always regarded as true repetition,
as the authentic, “inner” continuation of a religious tradition—the continuation that presupposes the possibility of a
rupture with the merely external, conventional, historically accidental form of this tradition, or even requires such a
rupture. According to this spiritualist interpretation of the religious tradition, the inner, spiritual fdelity to the essence
of a religious message gives to a believer the right to adapt the external, material form of this message to the changing
historical milieus and contexts without betraying the inner truth of this message. A religious tradition capable of trans-
forming and adapting itself to changing circumstances without losing its inner, essential identity is usually praised as
a living, spiritually powerful tradition capable of maintaining its vitality and historical relevance. On the other hand,
“superfcial” adherence to the mere letter, to the external form of religion, to the “empty” ritual is, as a rule, regarded
as symptomatic of the fact that the religion in question lacks vitality, and even as a betrayal of the inner truth of this
tradition by the purely mechanical reproduction of its external, dead form. Now, this is precisely what fundamentalism
is, namely, the insistence on the letter as opposed to the spirit.
Joshua Simon, Shahids, 2003–2008. Video collage (colour, sound), 20 min., loop.
Courtesy Joshua Simon.
It is for this reason that religious fundamentalism has always possessed a revolutionary dimension: while breaking
with the politics of spirit, that is, with the politics of reform, fexibility, and adaptation to the zeitgeist, it goes on to
substitute for this politics of spirit the violent politics of the letter. Thus, contemporary religious fundamentalism may
be regarded as the most radical product of the European Enlightenment and the materialist view of the world. Reli-
gious fundamentalism is religion after the death of the spirit, after the loss of spirituality. Should the spirit perish, all
that remains is the letter, the material form, the ritual as event in the material world. In other words, difference in the
material form of religion can no longer be compensated by identity in spirit. A rupture with the external form of the
ritual cannot be compensated by the inner, spiritual fdelity to the religious truth. A material difference is now just a
difference—there is no essence, no being and no meaning underlying such a formal difference at a deeper level. In this
sense, fundamentalist religious movements are religions after deconstruction. If meaning, sense, and intention cannot
be stabilized, the only possibility for authentic repetition is literal repetition, mechanical reproduction—beyond any
opinion, meaning, sense, and intention. Islam would be an especially good case in point. While notoriously forbidding
the production of images, it does not forbid the re-production and the use of already existing images—especially in the
case of so-called “mechanically produced” images, such as photography or flm. While it has meanwhile become banal
to say that Islam is not modern, it is obviously post-modern.
In his book Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze speaks of literal repetition as being radically artifcial and, in this
sense, as being in confict with everything natural, living, changing, and developing, including natural law and moral
law.1 Hence, practicing literal repetition can be seen as initiating a rupture in the continuity of life. In his remarks
on the philosophy of history, Walter Benjamin also describes the genuine revolution as a break with the continuity of
historical evolution, as a literal repetition of the past in the midst of the present. He also refers to capitalism as a new
kind of religion reduced to ritual and so devoid of any theology.2 Literal repetition, however, is not only a revolution
effectuated by capital or against it; that is, it is not only an act of violence against the fow of historical change, and
even against life as such. Literal repetition may also be seen as a way toward personal self-sacralization and immortal-
ity—immortality of the subject ready to submit him- or herself to such a repetition.
It is no mere accident that the working class has performed the repetitive, alienated, one might say, ritual work in the
context of modern industrial civilization, sacralized, in certain ways, by the socialist movements of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, whereas an intellectual or an artist—as embodiments of the creative spirit of change—remained
profane precisely because of their inability to repeat and to reproduce. Nietzsche had already made reference to literal
repetition—the eternal return of the same—as being the only possible way to think immortality after the death of spirit,
of God. Here, the difference between the repetitiveness of religious ritual and the literal reproduction of the world of
appearances disappears. One might say that religious ritual is the prototype of the mechanical reproduction that domi-
nated Western culture during the modern period, and which, to a certain degree, continues to dominate the contem-
porary world. What this suggests is that mechanical reproduction might, in its turn, be understood as a religious ritual.
It is for this reason that fundamentalist religious movements have become so successful in our time, for they combine
religious ritual with mechanical reproduction.
For Walter Benjamin, of course, mechanical reproduction entails the loss of aura, the loss of religious experience,
which he understands as the experience of uniqueness.3 He describes the religious experience as, one might say, a
unique spiritual experience. In this respect, his evocation of the experience of being enchanted by an Italian landscape
as an example of an authentic experience (of happiness, fullness, and the intensity of life) lost in the reproduction
process is particularly characteristic. But, one might argue, true religious experience is actually the experience of death
rather than the experience of life—the experience of death in the midst of life. Hence, precisely because mechanical re-
production may be understood as the lifeless repetition of the dead image, it can also be interpreted as a source of the
truly religious experience. In fact, it is precisely the loss of aura that represents the most radical religious experience
under the conditions of modernity, since it is in this way that a human being discovers the mechanical, machine-like,
repetitive, reproductive and, one might even say, dead aspect of his own existence.
3. The Digitalized Religion
However, as mentioned above, the new religious movements operate primarily through the Internet, by means of
digital rather than mechanical reproduction. During the last decades video has become the chosen medium of contem-
porary religious propaganda and is distributed through different TV channels, the Internet, commercial video stores,
etc. This is especially so in the case of the most recent, active, and even aggressive religious movements. The phenom-
enon of suicide-bomber confession videos and many other kinds of video production refecting the mentality of radical
Islam have meanwhile become familiar to us. On the other hand, the new evangelical movements also operate with the
same medium of video. If one asks those responsible for public relations in these movements to provide information,
one is initially sent videos. This use of the video as the major medium of self-presentation among different religious
movements is a relatively new phenomenon. Traditionally, the standard medium was a script, a book, a painted image
or sculpture. The question then arises as to what constitutes the difference between mechanical and digital reproduc-
tion and how this difference affects the fate of religion in our age.
At this point, I would argue that the use of video as the principle medium by contemporary religious movements is
intrinsic to the message of these movements. Neither is it external to the understanding of the religious as such, which
underlies this use. This is not to suggest, following Marshall McLuhan, that here the medium is the message; rather, I
would argue that the message has become the medium—a certain religious message has become the digital code.
Boris Groys, Medium Religion [Medium Religion], 2006. Video lecture (color, sound), 25 min., loop.
Courtesy Boris Groys.
Digital images have the propensity to generate, to multiply, and to distribute themselves almost anonymously through
the open felds of contemporary communication. The origin of these messages is diffcult, or even impossible, to locate,
much like the origin of divine, religious messages. At the same time, digitalization seems to guarantee a literal repro-
duction of a text or an image more effectively than any other known technique. Naturally, it is not so much the digital
image itself as the image fle, the digital data which remains identical through the process of its reproduction and
distribution. However, the image fle is not an image—the image fle is invisible. The digital image is an effect of the vi-
sualization of the invisible image fle, of the invisible digital data. Only the protagonists of the movie The Matrix (1999)
were able to see the image fles, the digital code as such. The average spectator, however, does not have the magic
pill that would allow him or her, like the protagonists of The Matrix, to enter the invisible space otherwise concealed
behind the digital image for the purposes of directly confronting the digital data itself. And such a spectator is not in
command of the technique that would enable him or her to transfer the digital data directly into the brain and to
experience it in the mode of pure, non-visualizable suffering (as was able the protagonist of another movie, Johnny
Mnemonic). (Actually, pure suffering is, as we know, the most adequate experience of the invisible.) Digital data
should be visualized, should become an image that can be seen. Here we have a situation wherein the perennial spirit/
matter dichotomy is reinterpreted as a dichotomy between digital fle and its visualization, or “immaterial informa-
tion” and “material” image, including visible text. In more theological terms: the digital fle functions as an angel—as
an invisible messenger transmitting a divine command. But a human being remains external to this message, to this
command, and thus condemned to contemplate only its visual effects. We are confronted here with the transposition
of a divine/human dichotomy from a metaphysical to a technical level—a transposition that, as Martin Heidegger
would argue, is only possible by virtue of this dichotomy being implicitly technical from the outset.4
By extension, a digital image that can be seen cannot be merely exhibited or copied (as an analogue image can) but
always only staged or performed. Here, the image begins to function like a piece of music, whose score, as is gener-
ally known, is not identical to the piece—the score being not audible, but silent. For the music to resound, it has to be
performed. One could argue that digitalization turns visual arts into performing arts. To perform something, however,
means to interpret it, betray it, destroy it. Every performance is an interpretation and every interpretation is a misuse.
The situation is especially diffcult in the case of an invisible original: if the original is visible it can be compared to a
copy—so the copy can be corrected and the feeling of distortion reduced. But if the original is invisible no such com-
parison is possible—any visualization remains uncertain in its relationship to the original; or one could even say that
every such performance itself becomes an original.
Sang-Kyoon Noh, Twin Jesus Christs, 2001. Sequins on polyester resin and fberglass, 267 x 265 x 78 cm.
Courtesy Sang-Kyoon Noh. Photo: Eun-Kyung Yeom.
Moreover, today information technology is in a state of perpetual change—hardware, software, simply everything. For
this reason alone, the image is transformed with each act of visualization that uses a different and new technology.
Today’s technology is conceived in terms of generations—we speak of computer generations, of generations of photo-
graphic and video equipment. But where generations are involved, so also are generational conficts, Oedipal struggles.
Anyone attempting to transfer his or her old text or image fles to new software experiences the power of the Oedipus
complex over current technology—much data is destroyed, evaporating into the void. The biological metaphor says
it all: it is not only life that is notorious for this, but technology as well, which, supposedly in opposition to nature,
has now become the medium of non-identical reproduction. Benjamin’s central assumption in his famous essay “The
Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”—namely, that an advanced technology can guarantee the mate-
rial identity between original and copy—was not borne out by later technological developments.5 Real technological
development went in the opposite direction—toward a diversifcation of the conditions under which a copy is produced
and distributed and, accordingly, the diversifcation of the resulting visual images. Were technology to guarantee the
visual identity between the different visualizations of the same data, they would still remain non-identical due to the
changing social contexts of their appearances.
The act of visualizing invisible digital data is thus analogous to the appearance of the invisible inside the topography
of the visible world (in biblical terms, signs and wonders) that generate the religious rituals. In this respect, the digital
image functions like a Byzantine icon—as a visible representation of invisible digital data. The digital code seems to
guarantee the identity of different images that function as visualizations of this code. The identity is established here
not at the level of spirit, essence or meaning, but on the material and technical level. Thus, it is in this way that the
promise of literal repetition seems to acquire a solid foundation—the digital fle is, after all, supposed to be something
more material and tangible than invisible God. However, the digital fle does remain invisible, hidden. What this
signifes is that its self-identity remains a matter of belief. Indeed, we are compelled to believe that each act of visual-
ization of certain digital data amounts to a revelation of the same data, much as we are obliged to believe that every
performance of a certain religious ritual refers to the same invisible God. And this means that opinion about what is
identical and what is different, or about what is original and what is copy, is an act of belief, an effect of a sovereign
decision that cannot be fully justifed empirically or logically.
Digital video substitutes the guarantees of spiritual immortality allegedly waiting for us beyond this world with the
technical guarantees of potentially eternal repetition inside this world—a repetition that becomes a form of immortali-
ty because of its ability to interrupt the fow of historical time. It is this new prospect of materialist, technically guaran-
teed immortality that the new religious movements de facto offer their adepts—beyond the metaphysical uncertainties
of their theological past. Placing human actions in a loop, both practices—ritual and video—realize the Nietzschean
promise of a new immortality: the eternal return of the same. However, this new technical guarantee remains a matter
of belief and sovereign decision. To recognize two different images as copies of the same image or as visualizations
of the same digital fle means to value immortality over originality. To recognize them as different would be to prefer
originality in time to the prospect of immortality. Both decisions are necessarily sovereign—and both are acts of faith.

This text will be published in the catalog for the exhibition “Medium Religion,” curated by Boris Groys and Peter
Weibel, showing at ZKM, Karlsruhe, from 23 November 2008 to 19 January 2009. Images in this article feature works
from that exhibition.
Jesus of Hollywood
Ever since the dawn of cinema flmmakers have been tempted -- possibly by the devil -- to recreate the
' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' '
bringing Jesus to the screen in a respectful 44-minute flm called La Vie et la Passion de Jesus Christ. If that
1903 incarnation marked Christ’s frst known appearance ' ' '
' '' ' ¯¯’ ¯ ¯ ' '
' ' ' ' ' ¯ ' ' ''
' '
from that reverential template and you’re sure to attract the ire of the godly, as a number of big-name flmmak
' ' '
¯ '' ' ' DW Griffth included the Passion in his typically grandiose 1916 epic,
Intolerance. His Christ, Howard Gaye, was suitably holy, but Griffth was forced to entirely reshoot his cruci
fxion scene after Jewish groups complained that there were too many Pharisees around the cross and not
enough Romans. Accusations of anti-semitism would become a recurring theme in the Jesus flms.
¯ ' ' ' ' '’ ¯ '
Cecil B DeMille’s hilariously unsubtle King of Kings (1927). Clearly afficted by a certain geographical confusion,
' ' ¯
' ' '
Once the talkies came, though, flmmakers began to shy away from the theme. Depicting Jesus was one
' ' ' ' ' '
what if he ended up being played by someone from New York? ‘Fugiv dem, fada, fuh dey know not wat dey
’ ' ' ’' ' ' ¯ '' ''' ' ' '
'
¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ it became the custom to flm Jesus
' ' '' ' ' ' ' '
' ' ' ' ' ' '
This craven approach to the Christ was fnally abandoned in 1961, when Nicholas Ray remade Cecil B DeMi
lle’s King of Kings, and cast Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus. This was the frst major Hollywood talkie to show Christ’s
' ' ' ' ' ' '' ' ' ' '
' ' ¯ ' ' ' '
' ' ' ' '
Ray’s flm was sober stuff compared to the 1965 George Stevens spectacular, The Greatest Story Ever Told.
¯ ' ' ' ' ' ' '
' ' ' ' ¯'' ¯ ' ' '' ’'
' ' ' ' ' '' ''
' “ ¯ ' ’ ” ' '' ' ''
'
Only a year before that, Pier Paolo Pasolini had made a far more serious and accomplished flm about Jesus.
¯ ' ' '' ' ' '
' ' ' ' ' ' ''
¯ '
Pasolini was a known communist, so some were surprised by the reverence of his flm, but the director had
' ' ' '' “ '

' ‘70s, it was as though Jesus had turned to his disciples and said ‘Hey fellas -- let’s put on a show!’ For
' ' ' ' ¯' ' ' ' ¯ ¯
’ ' ' ¯'' ' ¯ '
Carl Anderson a sympathetic -- and black -- Judas, but the writing was ropey and the flm has not dated well.
' ' ' ¯ ¯
stage musical, the flm starred Victor Garber as a hepcat Jesus preaching in Central Park, complete with a
¯' '
The screen Jesus most of us remember arrived in 1977, when Robert Powell starred in Franco Zeffrelli’s
TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. For Zeffrelli, it was the realisation of a life’s ambition, and the flm was well-
made, deeply reverential and very, very safe. But Powell was a fne Jesus.
¯ ' ' ' ¯ ' ' ' ' ' ''
¯ ' ' '' ' ' ' ' ' '' '
flm is not about Jesus but the kind of people who followed him, but this did not spare them any abuse. The
flm was never released here, and in London’s West End bowler-hatted zealots marched up and down in front
of cinemas shouting ‘down with this sort of thing’.
' Martin Scorsese landed himself in even more trouble with his very interesting 1988 flm, The Last
¯'' '. Based on a book by Nikos Kazantzakis, the flm’s most famous scene depicted Christ
' '
'' ' ' ' ' ''
tions raised by the flm got a bit lost in the media storm that followed.
'' ' ' ' ' '
' ' . Gruesome in the extreme, the flm left no one in any doubt as to exactly
how grisly a business the crucifxion was. But Jewish groups were offended by the flm’s perceived anti-semi
' ' ' ' ' '' ' ' ’ '
So which of these flms has made the best fst of telling the story of Christ’s last days? For me, it would have
' ’ ' ' '' ' ' ' '' ' ' ' '
' ' ' ' ''’ '’ ' ' ' '
' ' ' ¯ '
''
'

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